By Cara L. Dempski
ELK MOUND — By all accounts, the 2016 Mounder batsmen had a great season.
They played to an overall finish of 17-5, and were 11-2 in the Large Dunn-St. Croix; the conference finish was good enough for second place, one game behind the Durand squad. But the Mounders’ season ended with a loss to Boyceville, with whom they had split their conference games, in a Division 3 regional semi-final.
Elk Mound said good bye to the pitching/catching duo of Cole Tyman and Brandon Bohl after last year. The two played as starters for three seasons, with Tyman earning first-team all-conference honors from behind home plate, and Bohl earning a first-team award from the mound.
Head coach Paul Andrea also lost starters Alex Hollister, Ryan Conlin and Grant Kjellberg to graduation in May 2016. He could hang his head and wonder how to fill the holes left by the five former players, but Andrea has opted to focus on the players he will see this year, and the newcomers who have potential to make substantial contributions.
For instance, letter winners Ethan Kjellberg, Hunter Adleman, Trey Mohr and Carter Pritchard are back after helping the Mounders to a winning record in 2016. Andrea will also get the batting talents of Dane Lew back after the senior sat out most of last season due to a knee injury.
Kjellberg nabbed a .426 average over 61 at-bats, Adleman was .254 in 63 trips to the plate, Mohr earned 26 runs for a .339 average, Pritchard was .188 in 48 at-bats, and Lew went to the plate only 13 times, averaging .462.
Juniors Logan Bergh, Dylan Curry and Blake Rosenthal are hoping to fill some of the shoes left vacant by last year’s graduating seniors.
Right now, Andrea sees some strength in his pitching department, and indicated his team has both the speed and defensive skills to put up a fight. With that said, he expressed some concern about Elk Mound’s offense.
“Our weakness is at the plate, and making consistent contact up and down the lineup,” Andrea indicated. “We need to cut down on strike-outs.”
Andrea believes the 2017 Mounders will be right in the DSC mix this season. He said the top arms of Kjellberg and Mohr will keep Elk Mound in close competition with Durand, who returns a significant number of last year’s team. He also is keeping his eye on Boyceville, who could prove to be an even match for Elk Mound again this season.
One saving grace for the Mounders this season might be the number of teams in the Large DSC missing a lot of experienced players due to graduation. He sees Spring Valley and Pepin/Alma as the Small DSC teams to watch, since several quality players will be back on both teams.
Paul Andrea has been Elk Mound’s head coach since 2000, and carries an overall record of 218-117.
The Mounder baseball team will kick off its season with a March 30 game against Eleva-Strum before heading to Bloomer for a meeting with the Blackhawks on April 3. Elk Mound will play its first home contest against Fall Creek on April 6, and opens its DSC season April 10 at Glenwood City.
Seniors: Dane Lew, Carter Pritchard, Trey Mohr and Hunter Adleman.
Juniors: Ethan Kjellberg, Dylan Black, Brandon Redwine, Jonas Kohls, Dylan Curry, Dakota Bedell, Blake Rosenthal, Logan Bergh, Kole Ploekelman, James Rasmussen, Josh Flatness and Bowdrie Noller.
Sophomores: Brett Lew, Andrew Williams, Ethan Kaanta, Cameron Johnson and Jade Saxton-Jenson.
Freshmen: Blaze Todd, Kendall Nigon, Chase Rhude, Cole Steinhorst, James Jovanovich and Cole Baskin.